Since playing the first United States Open in 1895, the year after the United States Golf Association was formed, the procedure to settle a draw was after regulation the tournament was simple: a play-off consisted of 18 more holes of golf.
The thought was that only a full lap would produce a full and complete search to determine the champion.
Playoffs take place in the US Open more often than most realize. Of the 119 played so far, 33 have resulted in playoffs, or about one in four. Most years, those playoffs followed the original procedure, or an additional 18-hole variation. But from 1928 to 1931, the playoffs were settled on 36 holes, with the 1931 playoffs requiring two additional rounds of 36 holes – a total of 144 holes played – before changing the rule back to 18 holes. The procedure was further changed in 1953 to include continuous hole-by-hole play on sudden death until a winner emerged in the event of a tie after the initial 18-hole playoff.
The final playoff took place in 2008 at Torrey Pines when Tiger Woods, playing on what turned out to be a cracked thigh, won 19 holes at Rocco Mediate.
Significantly, some of the most compelling wave has taken place in US Open playoffs.
] In 1913, a 20-year-old former caddy, Francis Ouimet, defeated the world's two greatest golfers, the British Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, in an 18-hole play-off at The Country Club outside Boston, making golf a game for the elites with a populist and diverse appeal. Ouimet's victory sparked America's first major golf boom.
In 1929, in the first US Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester County, NY, Bobby Jones – after driving off a six-stroke lead with only seven holes to play – made a 12-foot curling putt on the 18th hole to force a draw. He went on to beat Al Espinosa in a 36-hole play-off with a whopping 23 strokes.
Ben Hogan won an 18-hole playoff at Merion Golf Club near Philadelphia in 1950, 16 months after a horrific head-on crash with a Greyhound bus that nearly crippled him. Red Smith immortalized Hogan's achievement: "Perhaps once in our lives it will be possible for each of us to say with accuracy and without mawkishness," This was a spiritual victory, an absolute victory of the will! " "
But in 2018 the USGA quietly changed the playoff format to a two-hole total score, with play starting right after the game ended on the last day. If necessary, sudden death would follow.
It is a dramatic, albeit unannounced change that had it been applied to the hole-by-hole scores of the 33 playoffs played before it would have produced dramatically different results. in 15 of the previous US Open playoffs. Ouimet is said to have lost to Vardon on the sixth playoff hole in 1913; Jones is said to have lost to Espinosa on the second hole in 1929; and Hogan would have lost to Lloyd Mangrum on the second playoff hole in 1950.
Some of the greatest triumphs in golf history, as we have learned, would be erased.
To justify the change in the aggregated two-hole playoff structure, Mike Davis, the USGA chief executive, has said, “Golf has really come this far in this day and age that everyone wants to see a Sunday finish. "
Jeff Hall, the USGA's general manager of rules, explained the rationale behind the decision to enforce a final day finish: “We consulted with major constituencies, not the least of which are players. We spoke to fans on the ground and we spoke to fans who participated in the championship via broadcast; Our television partners are of course also part of that discussion. So many people have a vested interest in getting a result on Sunday.
The decision emphasizes the importance of prime time TV broadcasts, likely a major impetus for the change to the playoffs, which would entail additional costs if the finals were held last Sunday
A person with knowledge of the decision who spoke on condition of anonymity said, "This new playoff method may inject some awkwardness that is inappropriate for the national championship. Wouldn't it be a shame if a lucky bounce – or an unfortunate one? – would determine the winner in a two-hole playoff? More than 18 holes would largely disregard luck. ”
A retired USGA executive perhaps summed up the new playoff rule best:" The US Open is supposed to be a tough exam, not a pop quiz. "
Despite not having had a US Open playoff in 12 years, two of the previous five have US Op ens held at Winged Foot required playoffs, making the chances of one taking place this year more likely. holes 10 (a par-3 of 214 meters with the deepest bunkers on the course) and 18 (a dogleg par-4 of 469 meters to an elevated, well-bunkered green) immediately after the game. If the playoffs result in a tie, play continues hole by hole on holes 10, 11 (a short par-4 of 384 yards) and 18, repeated as necessary, until a champion is determined.
Maybe one of the competitors will have to duplicate Jones's glorious putt to get into a playoff or win.